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Not on my (vegetable) patch!

There are many things I like about the village where we live in Oxfordshire.

High on that list is the sense of community spirit and ‘can do’ attitude when organising events that bring the whole village together for everyone to enjoy.

Building on the resounding success of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012, we now have an annual Michaelmas Fayre which took place last weekend. It included dozens of villagers getting creative to make a best scarecrow in village competition, and also a soap box derby for thrill seekers.

I’d like to think if the Scout troupe in our village asked if they could have an allotment plot to grow their own vegetables, the request would be welcomed with open arms (rather like the scarecrows).

Elsewhere however, this has apparently not been the case. HSE’s Myth Busters Challenge Panel reviewed a case last week where a Scout group were on a waiting list for an allotment. The young people were enthused by the prospect of growing their own veg and Scout leaders made it clear they would be properly supervised. However, when the Scouts were next on the list to be given a plot, the allotment committee Chair decided to refuse their plot on grounds of "health and safety".

Are there hazards associated with cultivating an allotment? Yes, of course but the risks involved in the use of tools and possibly chemicals are low and are all easily managed. The allotment would be a golden opportunity for the youngsters to learn life skills, spend time outdoors and learn more about where our food comes from. The Myth Buster Panel was unanimous in refuting any concerns this couldn’t happen for reasons of health and safety, and gave strong support for this great opportunity for these young people.

It’s pretty clear that health and safety was either being used here as a convenient excuse or there were some serious misconceptions about what health and safety is really about. It’s cases like this that cause TV adventurer Bear Grylls (Chief Scout) to publicly lambast health and safety for the negative effects it has on children’s learning about the outdoors. He’s right to have a go about officialdom, bureaucracy, over cautiousness and even self-protection (of prize cabbages in this case) but let’s get one thing clear – this was not about health and safety!

We need many more "can do" communities, a lot less jobsworths and more of the silent majority challenging decisions made in the name of health and safety.

2016-04-13